Oh, Neverland. Where adventure awaits and children never grow up. In this stressful adult world, it’s hard not to dream of that elusive shadow, with fairy in tow, ready to whisk you away to the second star to the right.
We’ll be filled with nothing but the happy thoughts that lift us up into the air and help us fly.
That’s how it starts.
But if you’ve read J. M. Barrie’s classic—and, trust me, you should—that’s not how it ends. After the mermaids and the pirates and the adventures on land, air, and sea, Peter Pan gets real. Too real. The kind of real that you realize only when you’ve grown up a bit and somehow have started to let go of that Neverland dream.
1. “Forget them, Wendy. Forget them all. Come with me where you’ll never, never have to worry about grown up things again.”
“Never is an awfully long time.”
It starts as a promise, but Wendy sees it for what it is: the beginning of the end. She starts to realize that her dream of never growing up and staying in the nursery (or Neverland) may not be what she wants after all. As for Peter, it seems like the boy who doesn’t have a care in the world finally found something—someone?—he cares about.
2. “You know that place between sleep and awake, that place where you still remember dreaming? That’s where I’ll always love you. That’s where I’ll be waiting.”
Now this may seem like just a tweetable quote, but if you overthink and overanalyze everything like I do, you’ll try to find that “place between sleep and awake.” And where is that? It’s in that tiny corner in your head that makes you look back on a memory and ask yourself, did this really happen? Is all this real?
3. He had ecstasies innumerable that other children can never know; but he was looking through the window at the one joy from which he must be for ever barred.
The one joy from which he must be for ever barred. Wendy? A family? A future? That one joy could be any of these. It could be all of these. It could simply be being on the other side of the window, for once.
4. “She’s awfully fond of Wendy,” he said to himself. He was angry with her now for not seeing why she could not have Wendy.
The reason was so simple: “I’m fond of her too. We can’t both have her, lady.”
When you’re jealous of a mother, you know you’ve got it bad.
5. “Absence makes the heart grow fonder… or forgetful.”
Apparently, there’s another side to the old saying Try to remember that when someone throws you this line. If this were a rom-com, here’s where the best friend looks you in the eye, holds you by the shoulders, and gives you some real talk. “He’s not coming back, hun.”
6. Next year he did not come for her. She waited in a new frock because the old one simply would not meet, but he never came.
“Perhaps he is ill,” Michael said.
“You know he is never ill.”
Michael came close to her and whispered, with a shiver, “Perhaps there is no such person, Wendy!” and then Wendy would have cried if Michael had not been crying.
Denial, anger, bargaining. The stages of grief, as shown by the Darling children. They may be mixed up a bit, but they’re there, just a few steps away from the last stage. Which brings us to…
7. But the years came and went without bringing the careless boy; and when they met again Wendy was a married woman, and Peter was no more to her than a little dust in the box in which she had kept her toys.
In the movies, this would be the sequel, where Peter has new adventures with Wendy’s daughter. There’s no point denying it. Peter and Wendy have moved on, though probably in different ways.
Meanwhile, we’re curled up in bed, clutching a pillow and crying our eyes out. Thanks, Barrie.